Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Obligatory blog post about Realignment rumors


Buster Olney wrote a piece (insider ESPN, sorry) on June 12th with some interesting comments on realignment and the future structure of the league.   Specifically Olney says that the players union is FOR a two-league 15-team structure, which means that it very well may happen along with the addition of a 2nd wild card (and possible draft slotting, and perhaps trading of draft picks) in each league when the next CBA ends.

How do you organize the league, if you were to move a new team into the AL?

Two proposals:

1. Two division-less 15-team leagues, with the top 5 from each league making the playoffs.  I call this the “Guarantee that Boston and the Yankees make the playoffs for the rest of time” plan.  It certainly would make for a fairer test of the long season, and would mean that a team like Toronto would actually make the playoffs every once in a while, since they’ve been winning 85-87 games and finishing fourth.  But it eliminates the whole concept of divisional play and resembles too closely the English Premier League.

2. Three 5-team divisions in each league, taking the 3 division winners and the two next best teams.  Still a plan that favors the monstrous budgets in Boston and New York, but also guarantees that the five teams that spend the most aren’t necessarily going to be the 5 teams that make the playoffs.

Who switches leagues?  It is obviously a NL team.  Perhaps its easier to start with the teams that will NOT move leagues based on history:

  • Philly, Atlanta, the Mets, St Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, the Cubs, San Francisco, the Dodgers.

Also, Geographically speaking the 4-team AL West is almost certainly the division that needs to be augmented, which more or less eliminates the Nats, the Marlins (despite what Olney’s sources say.  If the Marlins moved to the AL, what division would they join?), and the Brewers (despite their having already switched leagues in recent memory).


  • Houston: Houston Chronicle (and former WP columnist) Richard Justice wrote some compelling reasons here.
  • Arizona: Has a WS victory, probably not going to move, despite its WS victory seemingly accomplished on the backs of FA acquisitions.  They had the chance to move in the mid 90s and declined.  They have an AL style ball park, offensively heavy, and could fit in nicely with the existing AL west.
  • Colorado: one WS appearance since inception in 1992.
  • San Diego: in the NL West since inception in 1969.  Two world series appearances.  Budget constrained and would probably struggle to compete in the AL west.

Plus, if you  moved someone out of any division except the NL Central, then immediately Houston would become a member of the NL West to replace whoever left.  By moving Houston once, you end the divisional disruption.  In fact, the more you look at it, the more you realize that Houston is really the only logical candidate to move.

Downsides to this plan?  Interleague play all year.  But really, perhaps the real answer is to eliminate the whole interleague nonsense and go towards a more NFL-style schedule where the lines are blurred.  In every other pro league the two “leagues” all play each other all year.

(By the way, Rob Neyer and Jon Paul Morosi both agree; Houston must move to the AL).

DH or no DH?  Perhaps it is just time to admit the obvious and go with all DHs and eliminate pitchers from hitting altogether.  The union wants it (it keeps older sluggers employed for longer periods of time), Fans want it (nobody likes seeing a weak #8 hitter get intentionally walked to get an automatic out of a pitcher).  About the only people who do NOT want it are good-hitting hitters like Livan and NL starters who get somewhere in the range of 30-40 extra strikeouts per year facing their counter parts.

Written by Todd Boss

June 13th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

6 Responses to 'Obligatory blog post about Realignment rumors'

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  1. Fans want the DH? I don’t think so. Maybe casual fans. I must say that after years of AL baseball with the Orioles, NL baseball is much more interesting. The beauty of baseball is all the strategic decisions that must be made and second guessing the manager on pitching decisions is one the best parts. The question of whether to pull a struggling pitcher who is set to bat the next inning, for instance, is compelling. And we make fun of Riggleman’s penchant for the Double Switch, but really, that’s a fascinating feature of NL play too.

    If they have to make changes in scheduling, rules, etc., make the fewest possible. Move Houston to the AL and leave the rest of the structure as is.

    I hate the idea of expanding the Playoffs too. Can’t wait for the first snowbound World Series.

    Sec 314

    13 Jun 11 at 5:01 pm

  2. Its not the die-hard fans that the sport is trying to attract. They already have us, whether or not we like the wild card, divisional play, 162 versus 154 games, expansion or a host of other game modifications made over the past 50 years.

    So when i said “fans want the DH” i do think I mean casual fans … since its those casual fans who will continue to drive the game. Its casual fans who want more offense, scoff at incompetent pitchers trying to flail at 95mph fastballs and don’t necessarily get the nuances of the double switch. NL management leads to poorer quality of play. You have inferior batters instead of David Ortiz-style sluggers and you are forced to remove your starting pitchers simply because their at bat is coming up in the middle of a rally in the 5th.

    For me, a 2nd wild card might as well be guaranteeing both Boston and New York playoff spots ad naseum. I did a bit of research for a previous post on this topic ( and found that with a 2nd wildcard the Redsox and Yankees would both have made 27 of 30 possible playoff appearances since the 1994 season. I think its a travesty that the best regular season team in history (the 2001 Seattle Mariners) didn’t even come close to winning the world series. But this is baseball “progress.”

    Todd Boss

    13 Jun 11 at 5:38 pm

  3. Can someone explain why moving the Colorado Rockies ISN’T the most logical choice? Seriously I don’t follow baseball closely enough to know why not. Thanks.


    13 Jun 11 at 5:57 pm

  4. Sec. 314 — You’re absolutely right, there’s just a whole lot more decisions.

    The whole idea of having an interleague game every single day is just so ridiculous. It’s so dumb that it increases the chance of Selig approving it!

    Mark L

    13 Jun 11 at 8:31 pm

  5. On the DH question, don’t overlook us diehard old fogies who hate the DH and both maple and aluminum bats with equal fervor.

    Jim Webster

    13 Jun 11 at 10:02 pm

  6. Simplest reason the Rockies can’t move is that their move to the AL west would also mean someone from the NL central has to move to the NL west. So one from Milwaukee, St Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago or Houston would go to the west. The obvious choice here would be Houston again. So the question is; would you rather have Colorado switch leagues AND Houston switch divisions, or just have Houston switch leagues.

    True, Colorado has less of a pedigree than Houston … but Houston also just switched ownership groups, and that new group has to be approved by the league. Selig could very easily make switching leagues a condition of his approval.

    Plus … I think the whole Dallas-Houston divisional rivalry would be fantastic for baseball in Houston, which is really down right now.

    Todd Boss

    13 Jun 11 at 10:28 pm

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